Ask any selection of football fans to compile a list of their top three managers in the world and you can virtually guarantee one man will crop up on every single one; Pep Guardiola.
In the 7 years since being promoted through the Barcelona management ranks, Guardiola has proven that there is no better coach working today, both in terms of trophies and in the ability to successfully convey complex ideas to a squad. Despite his frankly ridiculous trophy haul, the Catalonian gaffer still has a number of detractors, folk who are of the opinion that there is a case of the emperor’s new clothes about Pep, that he has merely inherited a couple of easy jobs, jobs that any competent coach would excel in. This is patently not true.
When Guardiola inherited Barcelona he was gifted a talented squad beset with issues; Ronaldinho and Deco had cultivated an incredible imbalance within the dressing room, leading to the real concern that their carefree, party animal lifestyle would corrupt the prodigious young Messi. Even though a large transfusion of playing staff was required Pep still delivered a never before seen treble.
Even his current role at Bayern is not as transparent as it seems, acquiring the all conquering Bavarian outfit was not taking the easy way out, far from it. The fact he could not levitate them to higher heights meant that the only way was down.
Whilst he has missed out on the Champion’s League, a record of two league titles and a German cup in just two years is commendable, especially considering that he has implemented perhaps the most attractive playing style in the game.
If Guardiola is to win this season’s Champion’s League, something I think he will, many are expecting him to seek a new, fresh challenge. The most likely destination is a spell in the Premier League, but which club could lure the cardigan loving coach and which would tailor him best?
The Gunners have proved in recent years that they have the financial strength required to compete with the very best, however as Arsene Wenger has demonstrated just because the money is available that does not mean it will be spent. The pendulum of opinion at the Emirates, in regards to their manager, swings from side to side with more regularity than a hypnotists pocket watch. With every win he is a messiah and with every loss an incompetent boob. A similarity in playing styles has led many to think that Guardiola would be a perfect fit; I however do not see this as particularly viable. Wenger has such a massive influence at Arsenal, there is hardly a pie at the Emirates that does not have one of Wenger’s fingers within, and as such he can stay on as long as he sees fit. Still with plenty of vim and vigour I cannot see him abdicating his throne next summer.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovic has long been an admirer of Guardiola and has made no secret of his desire to see a similar style of play at Stamford Bridge, and whilst funds would be dispensed to assimilate a squad to suit Pep’s ideologies again it is a move I see as improbable. The Chelsea job has become a whole lot less desirable in recent years. It is a job where the coach’s head is never too far from the chopping block. The club has too many negative connotations to attract Guardiola.
He is a man who conducts himself in as calm and serene a way as possible, the constant shadow of the axe looming large above any manager at Stamford Bridge, would not mesh well with Guardiola. Chelsea would be much more suited to the explosive, aggressive, domineering style of current Athletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone.
The clear favourites and seemingly inevitable destination for Guardiola, so much so that current gaffer Manuel Pellegrini looks as though he is merely keeping his seat warm for his arrival. Manchester City’s pursuit of Pep has been almost romantic. With the appointment of Txiki Bergiristain and Ferran Soriano, two former collaborators of Pep’s, the club has manufactured itself to be as desirable as possible in the eyes of the Catalonian. Guardiola has made it clear that the reason he enjoys his time at Bayern is that he is allowed to focus solely on the on field aspect. You get the impression that the City hierarchy have been smitten for so long now, were they finally able to entice Guardiola; the club would cater to suit him and his needs.
Manchester City as a club, have been ridiculed for their lack if progress in the Champion’s League but with the appointment of Guardiola, a man who at a minimum makes it to the semi-finals and only then does he loose to the eventual winners, would revolutionise the club and shake it free from the apathy many fans feel when approaching Europe’s elite competition.
Of course there is a chance he may stay in Bavaria; however he seems to be following the teachings of the legendary Benfica coach Bela Guttmann who said “the third year is fatal”.
Guardiola is clearly an intelligent man who has a penchant for attempting life in a variety of cultures. The touted option of replacing Louis van Gaal at Manchester United is, again, unlikely as the club have quite clearly earmarked assistant, Ryan Giggs for the position.
When Guardiola does become available there will inevitably be a mad dash to secure his services, but as Manchester City have shown under Sheik Mansour’s ownership they have an enviable skill of getting what they want… sooner or later.